Looking for a hearty family-friendly meal made in one dish with savory Tex-Mex flavors? If you say “Yes, please!”, then this Southwest Chicken Quinoa Casserole is for you! It comes together quick and makes a nutritiously complete meal. Just add your favorite toppings and watch it disappear.
The Ultimate Make-Ahead Meal
Imagine a flavorful, nutritious meal that’s made all in one casserole dish that can be made ahead and reheated for an ultra-quick dinner or weekday lunches. This is that chicken casserole.
This Southwest chicken casserole with quinoa requires only 20 minutes of hands-on prep time, just like our Chicken Pot Pie Casserole recipe. The rest of the time it’ll be tucked away in the oven baking to perfection while you tidy up the kitchen and move on to other things. To speed up prep on busy weeknights, spend a little time on the weekend chopping the vegetables, cooking and dicing the chicken (use our easy, no fail method for perfectly cooked chicken breasts), and measure out the spices. Then all you have to do is combine, mix, cover, and bake this quinoa casserole when you’re ready.
Recipe Highlights (5 Reasons You’ll Love It)
We love a hearty, saucy casserole that’s as flavorful as it is satisfying and we’re pretty sure you’re going to love this one too…
- It’s Made In One Dish. One 9×13-inch casserole dish is all you need if using leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- A Protein-Packed Dinner. The combination of lean chicken breasts, quinoa, and black beans gives this Southwest Chicken Casserole a serious protein punch.
- Healthy, Quick, and Delicious. Like so many of our recipes, we’ve packed this casserole with veggies for color, texture, vitamins, and fiber.
- It Feeds A Crowd. With 8 servings per pan, this chicken casserole is perfect for gatherings, potlucks, family dinners, or anytime there are teenagers involved.
- The Leftovers Reheat Beautifully. You’ll be the envy of the break room when you pack this Southwest Chicken Casserole for lunch. So long, cold sandwich. We love these glass meal prep containers with locking lids for toting your own lunches.
Ingredients to Make Southwest Chicken Casserole
While this ingredient list may look long, have no fear. Many of the ingredients are ones that you likely already have on hand in your pantry or freezer, like everyday spices, canned goods, and frozen veggies.
- Cooked Chicken – Leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken are great shortcuts for this recipe. If starting with raw chicken, check out our recipe for How to Make the Perfect Chicken Breast or this Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Recipe (skip the shredding and dice instead)
- Quinoa – This chicken casserole uses dry (uncooked) quinoa – no need to cook it first!
- Bell pepper – Any color of bell pepper will work
- Jalapeño – Remove the seeds and membranes for less heat or omit, if desired
- Frozen cauliflower rice – No need to thaw first, just toss it in the pan and stir. Why cauliflower rice? It’s a great way to sneak in some veggies while keeping the carbs balanced and the moisture it gives off during baking helps make that quinoa nice and tender
- Frozen corn – No frozen corn? Substitute drained canned corn instead
- Canned Black beans – These are quick and easy shortcut in this recipe. Drain and rinse them under cool, running water to remove much of the added sodium if not using a brand without added salt
- Diced green chiles
- Canned diced tomatoes – Look for fire-roasted diced tomatoes to add extra flavor to this Southwest chicken casserole
- Tomato sauce – Look for ‘no added salt’ tomato sauce to reduce the sodium content
- Water or chicken broth – Use store-bought broth or make your own using our super easy and economical using our Instant Pot Bone Broth Recipe and Photo Tutorial
- Chili Powder – Thrive Market has the best price on one of the most flavorful chili powders we’ve ever tried. Don’t sleep on this one!
- Ancho chili powder – Ancho chili powder gives this dish a bit of a kick. If you prefer a milder option, replace it with additional chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Ground cumin
- Onion powder
- Dried Oregano
- Smoked paprika or regular paprika
- Shredded Cheese – We suggest either Colby jack, Monterey jack, cheddar cheese, or a “Mexican” blend that combines several types of flavorful cheeses. To make this casserole dairy-free, use your favorite vegan or dairy-free cheese alternative shreds
- Optional toppings for serving: sour cream, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, green onion, jalapeño slices, fresh lime wedges, sliced or diced avocado, etc.
Simple Directions for This Healthy Chicken Casserole
This casserole comes together so quickly with these three steps:
- Preheat the oven to 375℉ then prepare a large glass or ceramic baking dish by spraying with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add the cooked diced chicken, seasonings, quinoa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, bell pepper, jalapeño, black beans, frozen cauliflower rice, corn, green chiles, and about 1 ¼ cup of cheese and stir well to combine. That’s right, add it all to the dish. Don’t be shy.
- Tightly cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the quinoa is tender. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake again, uncovered, until the cheese is melted then remove the Southwest chicken casserole from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving with the toppings of your choice.
For the complete directions, ingredient amounts, and nutrition analysis that lists calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium per serving, scroll down to the recipe card below.
Meal Prep this Casserole to Fit Your Needs
Whether you like to prep ahead on the weekend and reheat and eat later or you prefer a hot and fresh meal but want to minimize the time it takes to put dinner on the table, we’ve got tips to help you succeed!
- To fully cook and reheat later: Prepare the chicken casserole as directed. Allow casserole to cool before covering or portioning into individual containers and placing in the refrigerator.
- To prep ahead and bake later: Chop the bell pepper and jalapeño. Cook the chicken and cool. Shred the cheese if not using shredded cheese. Measure and mix the spices. Store the vegetables, chicken, and cheese in separate containers in the fridge until ready to use. Store the spices in a covered container or jar with lid at room temperature. When you’re ready to make this casserole, you simply need to stir your prepped ingredients together, then bake!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! This recipe can be prepared as directed then cooled and frozen. For best results, we recommend cooling completely in the refrigerator before transferring to a freezer-safe container with lid and freezing. To reheat, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator then bake, covered, for 60-75 minutes or until heated through and an instant-read thermometer reads 165℉ when inserted in the center.
We recommend either using our method for How to Make the Perfect Chicken Breast on the stovetop or our recipe for Instant Pot Shredded Chicken. Instead of shredding, just dice the chicken once it’s cool enough to handle.
Absolutely! That’s one of our favorite shortcuts to use in this Southwest Chicken Quinoa Casserole.
Simply swap the shredded cheese out for your favorite dairy-free or vegan cheese alternative shreds. For serving, top with a dollop of vegan sour cream or non-dairy plain yogurt, if desired.
Yes, it is! Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and a good source of fiber, protein, and iron. It’s nutty flavor and rice-like texture make it perfect for one dish meals such as our Pepperoni Pizza Quinoa Casserole and this Chipotle Quinoa Casserole with Chicken.
If you plan to meal prep this to reheat and eat later in the week, it can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Here are some of our top tips for saving money when making this Southwest Chicken Casserole:
- Purchase chicken breasts in ‘value packs’. Freeze what you don’t need for this recipe to use later.
- Opt for store-brand canned beans, tomato products, broth (if not making your own), and spices.
- Purchase block cheese and shred your own using a box grater or a food processor fitted with the shredding disc.
- Cooking spray
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and diced* (about 2 – 2 ½ cups cooked)
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder or an additional ½ teaspoon chili powder for less heat
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoons smoked paprika or regular paprika
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ½ cup dry quinoa (uncooked)
- 1 (14-oz) can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
- 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 medium bell pepper, diced (any color)
- 1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, diced (omit for less heat)
- 1 (10- oz) bag frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed or (may sub 1 ½ cups cooked lentils)
- 1 ½ cups frozen corn
- 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
- 8 ounces (one block or bag) shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese (2-2 ½ cups), divided
- Optional toppings: sour cream, salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, green onion, jalapeño slices, fresh lime wedges, sliced or diced avocado, etc.
- Preheat the oven to 375℉. Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- To the baking dish, add the diced chicken, seasonings, quinoa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, bell pepper, jalapeño, black beans, frozen cauliflower rice, corn, green chiles, and about 1 ¼ cup of cheese and stir well to combine.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.
- Remove the foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes. Serve with optional toppings.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. May be frozen for longer storage.
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- Serving Size: 1/8 recipe
- Calories: 330
- Fat: 12 g
- (Sat Fat: 6 g)
- Sodium: 690 mg
- Carbohydrate: 30 g
- (Fiber: 7 g
- Sugar: 6 g)
- Protein: 27 g
- Cholesterol: 150 mg
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The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel Cook of Half Acre House.
For ultimate success, we highly recommend reading the tips in the full blog post above. All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish a recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words. Link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!